Diarrheal Illnesses from Food, Water, Animals, and Feces

Some viruses, bacteria, and parasites affect your stomach and intestines and make you sick with vomiting, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever. Practicing good handwashing and food safety help protect you from getting sick. 

In Vermont, these types of illnesses (also called “enteric diseases”) are most often from norovirus (sometimes called "stomach bug"), bacteria called Campylobacter, Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli), and Shigella, and the parasite Cryptosporidium (crypto). 

It’s common to get sick with these types of illnesses, and you can get them any time of the year. Norovirus occurs much more often in the winter and early spring. Illnesses caused by bacteria, like Campylobacter and Salmonella, spike in the summer. Learn more about the common foodborne and diarrheal illnesses in Vermont

How to stay safe from harmful germs.
Effective ways to help prevent food poisoning.
Easy prevention tips to protect yourself and others.
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You can get sick when you:
  • Eat contaminated food (often referred to as food poisoning).
  • Drink contaminated water, including accidentally when swimming.
  • Touch infected animals or their environments.
  • Have contact with feces (poop) of an infected person. Germs spread to food or water when an infected person doesn’t wash their hands properly after using the bathroom. You can also get sick from contact with feces, even if not visible, through sexual contact.

Everyday Tips to Protect Yourself and Others

Lower your risk of getting sick and prevent germs from spreading to your loved ones and in your community.  

  1. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Especially before making food or eating, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers, petting or playing with animals, or touching an animal’s environment or food.
  2. Stay home from school or work when sick and until all symptoms have been gone for at least 24 hours. This is especially important for people who handle food at work. 
  3. Prepare, cook, and store food safely. Wash your fruits and vegetables before eating them. Keep raw poultry away from other foods by using separate cutting boards and cleaning the cutting boards properly. Cook foods to the right temperature and remember to refrigerate leftovers within two hours. Routinely clean and sanitize kitchen utensils, counters, and surfaces before preparing food.
  4. Avoid preparing food or drinks for others when sick and until your diarrhea has been gone for 24 hours.
  5. Play safe with animals. Don’t kiss them and don’t put your hands near your mouth after petting or playing. Clean their habitats, bowls, and toys away from the kitchen — preferably outside. 

Some people are more likely to get a serious illness that can lead to hospitalization, or even death, and should take extra precautions. This includes children under 5 years old, adults aged 65 and older, pregnant people, and people with weakened immune systems.

If You are Sick

Call your health care provider if you are concerned. Stay home and drink extra fluids to prevent dehydration. Most people recover from diarrheal illnesses within a week without treatment, but sometimes it can take a few months to return to normal. 

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Resistance to antibiotics is increasing. Use antibiotics appropriately.

Talk with your health care provider about the best treatment if you are sick. Antibiotics save lives, but any time they are used, they can cause sides effects and contribute to antimicrobial resistance. Always follow your provider’s instructions if you are prescribed antibiotics.

Learn more about antimicrobial resistance

Health Department's Role

The Foodborne and Waterborne Disease Program is responsible for tracking and investigating outbreaks and preventing the spread of these diseases. As part of these efforts, the program collaborates with other parts of Vermont state government, other state health departments and federal health partners.

Learn how foodborne disease outbreaks are investigated